University of Melbourne Student Union

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UMSU logo
Full nameUniversity of Melbourne Student Union
AffiliationNational Union of Students
Key peopleDesiree Cai, President
Daniel Beratis, General Secretary
Office locationUnion House, University of Melbourne

The University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) is one of two student organisations at the University of Melbourne, Australia. UMSU, incorporated as University of Melbourne Student Union, Inc. (UMSUi) provides representation and services for all current students and the University of Melbourne.

Until April 2017, there was a separate company, wholly owned by the University; Melbourne University Student Union Limited (MUSUL), which provided services to the two student organisations - UMSU and the Graduate Student Association (GSA). MUSUL was a company limited by guarantee and governed by a board of directors which comprises only three students. It was not a student organisation. As of 2017, the operations of MUSUL were wound up, with the University and its student organisations taking on roles previously administered by MUSUL.

Following the liquidation of its predecessor, The Melbourne University Student Union (MUSU), UMSU was incorporated on 17 November 2005, following approval by the Council of the University of Melbourne in October of that year. Its first elections were held in October 2005 under the transitional clauses of the constitution.


Student Clubs and Societies[edit]

Over 200 student run clubs and societies are affiliated to UMSU,[1] which supports these organisations though financial grants and administrative assistance. The groups affiliated with UMSU range from the More Beer! club to the Quidditch team, but the largest and most notable of these societies are the faculty clubs (Arts' Students Society & Science Students' Society[2]) which run the largest balls and parties on campus.


UMSU has a long history of on-campus activism. In the past, Union House has been used to hide draftees for the Vietnam War, as well as refugees facing deportation. Within the union and its collectives, UMSU has undertaken activism regarding Indigenous Civil Rights, Anti-racism Movements, Women's and Queer Liberation, as well as ones against conscription and the Vietnam War.

UMSU has also been vocal in regards to activism against cuts to university funding and services. UMSU has run campaigns against the amalgamation of degrees and university services in past years, as well as being a force in fighting cuts to federal education funding. Namely, being involved in protests against the introduction of HECS in 1989 and the proposed deregulation of student fees, proposed by the Abbott Government in 2014.

Union House Theatre[edit]

Particularly noteworthy is Union House Theatre, out of which a large number of notable Australian celebrities have emerged, such as Cate Blanchett, Barry Humphries and Malcolm Livingstone; the Union Band Comp, which has kick-started the careers of several well-known Australian bands; and an annual comedy revue which produced the Working Dog crew.


Farrago is the official newspaper of the University of Melbourne Student Union. The name is included in the motto Quidquid agunt homines nostri farrago libelli est — whatever men do forms the motley subject of our page.

The newspaper was founded by Brian Fitzpatrick in 1925. Noteworthy editors in the past have included E W (Bill) Tipping, Geoffrey Blainey, Amira Gust, Claude Forrell, Ian Robinson, Morag Fraser, Garrie Hutchinson, Ross McPherson, Lindsay Tanner, Peter Russo, Louise Carbines, Jim Brumby, Pete Steedman, Arnold Zable, Kate Legge, Nicola Gobbo, Cathy Bale, and Christos Tsiolkas in 1988.

The magazine, and its editors, also oversee the delivery of other projects, such as the on-campus radio station, Radio Fodder, the creative writing anthology, Above Water, and the annual guide to the UMSU Elections.


Union House in the Parkville Campus

The student union had been funded by compulsory Amenities and Services Fees since 1911. The introduction of VSU saw a significant loss of funding for the union, as the ASF was no longer charged from 1 July 2006. On 11 October 2011 the SSAF[3] was introduced which led to a large increase in funding to the Union, though not as high as in the pre-VSU era. In 2014 the Union was allocated just under $4.5 Million by the University, or 34% of the total SSAF revenue collected.[4]

The union funds a range of services including: the Rowden White Library; the Student Union Advocacy and Legal Service; the campus information centre; the Union House Theater, Clubs and Societies, Farrago, Student Representation and common areas in Union House. This allocation also covers staff salaries, and office bearer honorariums. UMSU additionally collects a small amount of revenue from event ticket sales, AV and BBQ hire, sponsorship and other sources.


The University of Melbourne Union was founded in 1884 to promote the common interests of students and assist in social interactions between its members. The Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council was formed as an independent unincorporated association at a special general meeting called by the Sports Union Council on 19 September 1907.

The Associations Incorporation Act, 1981, allowed incorporation of student bodies, among others. The Students’ Association in 1987 as the Melbourne College of Advanced Education Students’ Association-Carlton Incorporated, and the Students’ Representative Council was incorporated in 1988 as Melbourne University Students’ Representative Council Incorporated. On 13 October 1988 the two merged to form Melbourne University Student Union Incorporated (MUSUi).

Voluntary liquidation[edit]

From 2002, some of the union's unprofitable commercial services were terminated, including U-Bar, and a property deal was entered into with Optima Property Development Group. A draft report from auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers warned in June 2003 that this could potentially create obligations beyond MUSUi's capacity to pay.[5][6] The deal was for MUSUi to sublease student apartments to international students from the Optima Group. It did not proceed.

On 30 September 2003, Vice-Chancellor Alan Gilbert informed MUSUi that the University was terminating the 2003 Funding Agreement, effectively stripping it of any future money, citing "evidence of breaches by MUSUI of its obligations under the Agreement", (the agreement being "providing facilities, services or activities of direct benefit to students at the institution"). He also cited a "serious breakdown in governance, financial management and accountability structures within MUSU".

On 6 February 2004, the Union was placed into liquidation by the Supreme Court of Victoria after a vote by the Student Union Executive. MUSU's liquidator, Dean Royston McVeigh, said in his provisional liquidator's report, that the Union owed debts of $4.3 million (mainly to the University of Melbourne) but only had assets of $3.5 million. McVeigh acknowledged that these "debts" were the result of creative accounting by the University, with the University ultimately relinquishing any claim to such "debts". As a result, it was no longer student-controlled (a prerequisite for affiliation to NUS) and was in any case unable to pay affiliation fees. A new constitution was approved.

Master Ewart Evans, who was presiding over the hearings of the liquidators' examination until his retirement in 2005, was critical of the "somewhat precipitative" timing of civil court proceedings, which McVeigh quickly settled out of court after much adverse publicity about his own fees and expenses believed to total more than $8 million[7] prior to producing a Liquidator's Report and convening a meeting of creditors. The downfall of MUSU was satirised by the Union Players in the play Friday Night at the Union in 2004.

Recent political history[edit]

Students Protest Against Education Cuts. University of Melbourme Parkville, September 2013

Following the 2004 annual election, a coalition between the Liberal Club and the Labor right was defeated by a cooperative left, made up of National Labor Students (ALP Club), Socialist Alternative and a group of progressive students who are not involved in other politics called Activate. The positions won by the left groups were for an interim student representative committee established by the University to oversee student representation and advocacy until the incorporation of UMSU.

UMSU saw few changes in its power dynamic from 2005-07. In 2007 National Labor Students held the President, Secretary and Education (Academic) Offices. The makeup of the 2007 Student Council had no ALSF presence (due to the Liberal Student tickets withdrawing from the annual elections prior to the opening of the ballot). The 2007 UMSU budget, due to funding cuts caused by VSU, was reduced from just over $2m in 2006 to $1.23m in 2007. This resulted in reductions in funding for departments, particularly those which traditionally have been considered high, such as the Activities, Clubs and Societies and Media Departments.

In 2008, the National Labor Students and Grassroots tickets, running as StandUp! and Activate respectively, won most of the paid positions in the Student Union. Their tenure in 2009 was highlighted by difficulties in passing budgetary support towards the National Union of Students and Students for Palestine organizations.

2009 saw nearly all major elected positions won by a Labor Right-Liberal coalition called Synergy.[8] On Student Council, Synergy were elected to four positions (two Liberals and two Student Unity) and five positions were won by iUnion, a newly established ticket run by international students and former StandUp! office bearers.[9]

2012 saw the union criticised for the decision to not lay a $200 wreath at the ANZAC dawn service, with President Mark Kettle stating that "participating in the ANZAC Day service would be ‘glorifying war’".[10] There was also a publication in a major daily newspaper that student resources had been were used to support "a live and extreme sex show performed on campus for "sex education" purposes."[11]

2013 again saw the union criticised, when they passed a motion to unreservedly celebrate the death of Margaret Thatcher,[12] resulting in media coverage from the Herald Sun and a large student backlash against the union over Facebook.[13]

On 23 March 2016, James Baker resigned as President following reports of inappropriate behaviour.[14] The position was filled by Indigenous Officer Tyson Holloway-Clarke after an unopposed election at a meeting of Students' Council in late April 2016.[15] Wunambi Connor was later appointed by the Indigenous Committee to the position of Indigenous Officer on 31 May 2016, joining Emily James in the position.[16]

Affiliation to NUS[edit]

UMSU is an affiliate to Australia's peak representative body for students, the National Union of Students (NUS). With the University of Melbourne having over 30,000 students of an Equivalent full-time student load (EFTSL), UMSU is the largest union to affiliate to NUS. Due to this, at the yearly National Conference of NUS in December, UMSU is the most represented student organisation. UMSU holds 7 delegate positions, and a grand total of 182 votes on conference floor. The election of NUS Delegates is undertaken during the general elections in early September of each year.

The amount of affiliation paid is an often controversial topic within UMSU. The amount granted often fluctuates from year to year. In recent years, Students Council has set affiliation as high $100,000, and as low as $30,000.

Initial constitution[edit]

The Constitution of UMSU was drafted by a Student Representative Working Group, members of whom were elected in 2004 by electronic ballot; the University Secretary was appointed Returning Officer. The University was closely involved in the drafting process and provided free legal advice to the Working Group.[17]

These student Working Group members consisted of both undergraduate and post-graduate members, and the overall composition of the Working Group was factionally diverse, with the incumbent Student Unity/ALSF coalition being reduced to opposition status. Due to a large number of inquorate meetings, the Working Group instituted a drop-off rule.

The Working Group persisted until mid-2005, when the final draft of the Constitution was presented to the Council of the University.[18] In September 1052 out of 1240 students voted in favour of accepting the new constitution.[19]

The Constitution itself was largely based on the MUSU Constitution, with a number of innovations, including affirmative action provisions, pay-parity and strict accountability mechanisms curbing the powers of the President and Secretary in particular. It also created the Clubs & Societies Department (which in the past had been a part of the Activities Department) and the Indigenous Department.


UMSU has a number of paid officers, which include: the President; the General Secretary; Media Officers; Education (Academic Affairs) Officer; Education (Public Affairs) Officers; Activities Officers; Creative Arts Officers; Clubs and Societies Officers; Welfare Officer; Environment Officers; Indigenous Officers; Disabilities Officers; Queer Officers; Women's Officers; People of Colour Officers; the Burnley Campus Coordinator, and the VCA Campus Coordinator.

Aside from the positions of President, General Secretary and the campus coordinators of Burnley and the VCA, all other offices can be shared between two people. The Media Office must be shared between three or four people.

UMSU has a pay parity provision in its constitution which stipulates that all full-time officers must be paid an equal wage and that all part-time officers be paid at a .6 fraction of the full-time rate of pay. The VCA Campus Coordinator and Burnley Campus Coordinator are paid at .5 fraction of the full-time rate of pay.

Elections and Current Factions[edit]


Elections for positions within UMSU are determined through direct election during the first week of September each year. This sees the election of 32 paid office bearers of 17 representative departments, as well as 21 students who sit on UMSU's peak decision body, Students Council. The election of representatives onto department committees and seven NUS delegates also occurs at this time, with the election of a student representative onto the University's Council occurring every two years.

As of the 2016 election, the UMSU constitution has applied Affirmative Action to the election of positions held by more than one representative. This mandates that in all Office Bearer positions, at least 50% of elected representatives must identify as a woman, with the Women's Department having to elect at least one officer that identifies as a Woman of Colour. This is extended to Students Council and department committees, which must elect women into 50%+1 of all positions. In the election of roles within autonomous departments, as well as the election of restricted autonomous positions on Students Council, only those who identify with the represented group are eligible to run.

While boasting a student body of over 45,000 students, all of whom members of UMSU, these elections are only participated by about 3000 students each year. In fact this year, only up to 4% of the student body voted which is a 6% drop from 2017.


In 2017/18 the Students' Council, the peak body for the union, is made up of 21 student representatives from 5 factions (who run under the following Tickets during elections) [20]

Faction Ticket Registrar Seats held 2017/18 Council
Stand Up! Desiree Cai 9                  
More! (More Activities!) Alston Chu 7              
Independent Media Jesse Paris-Jourdan 1  
The Biggest Blackest Ticket Tyson Holloway-Clarke 1  
Socialist Alternative Jade Eckhaus 3      

Currently, most of the positions within UMSU are held by members of five factions who mainly run under the tickets Stand Up!, More!, Independent Media, Left Focus (Socialist Alternative), and The Biggest Blackest Ticket. As of the 2017 election, the two largest factions are Stand Up! and More!

  • Stand Up! - A broad left ticket made of those who align themselves with the Labor Left and the National Labor Students faction within the National Union of Students, as well as independents
  • More! - A coalition of the clubs/activities focused More Activities! group, members of the National Independents, and Grassroots-aligned students who previously ran under the now-dissolved Activate ticket
  • Independent Media - A ticket that surrounds student media on campus, namely the campus newspaper, Farrago. For much of recent campus political history, Independent Media has secured the editorship of Farrago and the services it presides over (such as Radio Fodder)
  • The Biggest Blackest Ticket - An Indigenous ticket that is almost wholly built out of the campus' Indigenous collective
  • Socialist Alternative - Apart of a national revolutionary socialist group, at a youth level Socialist Alternative is a Trotskyist faction heavily involved within the National Union of Students. While mainly running under the Left Focus ticket, the group is also known to run under smaller, one issue tickets

Current Office Bearers[edit]

Office Office Bearers Faction
President Desiree Cai Stand Up!
General Secretary Daniel Beratis More!
Activities Alex Fielden & Jordan Tochner More!
Burnley Student Association James Barclay Unaligned
Clubs Matthew Simkiss & Nellie Seale More!
Creative Arts Ashleigh Morris & Freya McGrath More!
Disabilities Jacinta Dowe & Hien Nguyen More!
Education (Academic Affairs) Alice Smith & Toby Silcock Stand Up!
Education (Public Affairs) Conor Clements Stand Up!
Environment Callum Simpson & Lucy Turton More!
Indigenous Jenna Kramme & Alexandra Hohoi Biggest Blackest Ticket
Media Jesse Paris-Jourdan, Esther Le Couteur, Ashleigh Barraclough & Monique O’Rafferty Independent Media
People of Colour Hiruni Walimunige & Reem Faiq More!
Queer Amelia Reeves & Elinor Mills More!
Welfare Cecilia Widjojo & Michael Aguilera Stand Up!
Women Kareena Dhaliwal & Molly Willmott Stand Up!
VCA Hilary Ekins More!

Notable associations[edit]

Several Members of Parliament were active within Melbourne University student life, including Sir Robert Menzies (former Australian Prime Minister), Gareth Evans (former Australian Foreign Minister), Lindsay Tanner (former Member for Melbourne), Michael Danby (Member for Melbourne Ports), and Sophie Mirabella (former Member for Indi).

Notable past presidents include:


  1. ^ "UMSU Clubs and Societies".
  2. ^ "The Science Students' Society (SSS)". Retrieved 2015-08-11.
  3. ^ "Student Services and Amenities Fee".
  4. ^ "SSAF". University of Melbourne Student Union. UMSU Inc. Retrieved 19 January 2016.
  5. ^ "Student union urged to abandon deal" - The Age 2003-07-09
  6. ^ "The deal that threatens to send a student union broke" - The Age 2003-07-20
  7. ^ "Landeryou threatened me, says liquidator" - The Age 2005-05-25
  8. ^ Crook, Andrew (15 September 2009). "Young Liberals find their campus saviours: the ALP". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  9. ^ Summers, Chris (16 September 2009). "Left and right? Just the beginning of the complexities of student politics". Crikey. Retrieved 17 October 2009.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Elected student working group will form a 'constitutional convention'". UniNews Vol. 13, No. 4. University of Melbourne. 22 March – 5 April 2004.
  18. ^ Christina Buckridge (22 August – 5 September 2005). "Council gives go-ahead to student body's constitution". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 15. University of Melbourne.
  19. ^ "Yes vote on new student body sets scene for elections". UniNews Vol. 14, No. 16. University of Melbourne. 5–19 September 2005.
  20. ^ UMSU Students' Council Membership

External links[edit]